Does McMurphy transfer his individualistic spirit into that o by rahulbose


									One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, with its meaningful message of
individualism, was an extremely influential novel during the 1960's. In
addition, its author, Ken Kesey, played a significant role in the
development of the counterculture of the 60's; this included all people
who did not conform to society's standards, experimented in drugs, and
just lived their lives in an unconventional manner. Ken Kesey had many
significant experiences that enabled him to create One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest. As a result of his entrance into the creative writing
program at Stanford University in 1959 (Ken 1), Kesey moved to Perry Lane
in Menlo Park. It was there that he and other writers first experimented
with psychedelic drugs. After living at Perry Lane for a while, Kesey's
friend, Vik Lovell, informed him about experiments at a local V.A.
hospital in which volunteers were paid to take mind-altering drugs (Wolfe
321). Kesey's experiences at the hospital were his first step towards
writing Cuckoo's Nest. Upon testing the effects of the then little-known
drug, LSD, "...he was in a realm of consciousness he had never dreamed of
before and it was not a dream or delirium but part of his awareness
(322)." This awareness caused him to believe that these psychedelic
drugs could enable him to see things the way they were truly meant to be
      After working as a test subject for the hospital, Kesey was able to
get a job working as a psychiatric aide. This was the next significant
factor in writing the book. "Sometimes he would go to work high on acid
(LSD) (323)." By doing so, he was able to understand the pain felt by
the patients on the ward. In addition, the job allowed him to examine
everything that went on within the confines of the hospital. From these
things, Kesey obtained exceptional insight for writing One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest. To make the novel seem as realistic as possible, he
loosely based the characters on the personalities of people in the ward;
also, his use of drugs while writing allowed him to make scenes such as
Chief Bromden's (The Chief is the narrator of the story. He is a Native
American who happens to be a paranoid schizophrenic.) dreams much more
vivid (Ken 2). As mentioned in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,
"...certain passages 3/4 like Chief Broom [Chief Bromden] in his
schizophrenic fogs 3/4 [it] was true vision, a little of what you could
see if you opened the doors of perception, friends (Wolfe 328).
      Ken Kesey's altered mental state while he wrote Cuckoo's Nest is
what truly makes it unique. The novel's message of rebelling against
authority was very influential to the counterculture generation of the
1960's. Kesey and his writing became a key factor in a decade filled
with drugs and anti-establishment feelings.
      One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest takes place in a mental hospital in
which the patients' individuality is suppressed by the head nurse, Nurse
Ratched. When a sane con-man (Randle P. McMurphy) has himself committed
to avoid a prison sentence, the machine-like order that had previously
existed on the ward is immediately challenged. Initially, McMurphy is a
very selfish man whose only desire is to cause problems for authority
figures, Nurse Ratched in particular, and to make life for himself as
easy as possible. Eventually, this all changes as the battle between
himself and Nurse Ratched becomes their battle for the souls of the
inmates. McMurphy's struggle to "free" the other inmates is a difficult
one, ultimately resulting in his own destruction; however, through his
death, the other patients are able to realize their own sense of self and
they escape the ward. Although McMurphy works to save all the inmates,
the schizophrenic, Chief Bromden, is the main target of his attentions.
The Chief is the largest, most powerful man on the ward, but is made to
feel weak and inferior by staying there. Upon realizing his own value at
the end of the novel, Chief Bromden participates in the mercy killing of
McMurphy which allows for his own complete liberation, as well as that of
the other patients.
      Entering the mental hospital a sane man, R.P. McMurphy only looks
out for himself; however, this all changes when he realizes the
permanence of his residency on the ward if he does not conform. This
motivates him to begin working to save the other inmates on the ward and
transfer some of his high spirit into them. His struggle to help them
realize their individuality results in his own mental decay and he is
ultimately destroyed.
      In order to make himself as comfortable as possible, McMurphy
initially tries to defy authority and gain the inmates' trust for his own
personal gain. He is immediately a threat to the order that Nurse
Ratched has created and maintains. While there is not supposed to be
gambling on the ward, one of McMurphy's first goals is to get the other
patients to play cards with him for money. This is expressed when
McMurphy says "...I came to this bring you birds fun
an' entertainment around the gamin' table (Ken 12)." Another way that he
is able to disrupt the hospital's order is through his bold laughter.
This is very disturbing because no one ever laughs in the mental
hospital. The inmates are controlled and mechanized; the laughter
suggests personality, which would break down this order. According to
Chief Bromden, he had not hear a laugh in years (11). McMurphy makes it
obvious right away that he has no intention of letting the hospital's
machine-like order consume his identity.
      As a result off his rambunctious behavior, the inevitable battle
between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched begins. During group therapy
meetings, McMurphy does not let Nurse Ratched have complete control as
she has had in the past and as she would like to continue. He disrupts
the meetings by provoking the other patients to excitement when they make
comments about their respective problems. It also infuriates Nurse
Ratched when McMurphy diverts the attention directed at other patients
towards himself. Also, one particular scene displaying the beginning of
the battle between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy occurs when McMurphy wants
to watch the World Series. He convinces the inmates to resist Nurse
Ratched by watching a blank TV screen, even when she turns off the World
Series (140). The things that McMurphy does early in the novel to battle
Nurse Ratched are selfish and have the intention of being chaotic.
      Eventually, this all begins to change as McMurphy begins his
struggle to help save the other inmates. He begins to conform slightly
when he recognizes the power that Nurse Ratched wields; he learns that he
cannot be dismissed from the hospital without Nurse Ratched saying he has
been cured. However, the other inmates are not satisfied; they want him
to lead a rebellion. McMurphy's rebellious nature goes from that of
self-interest to that of devotion to helping the other inmates find their
freedom and individuality. By doing so, he also sees a means of escape
for himself. The first display of his new strategy for defying authority
occurs on the fishing trip that the inmates take. This trip, which is
organized by McMurphy, helps the inmates realize that they can act for
themselves and returns to them some sense of self-respect. Another
example of McMurphy's change from a nuisance to a savior is how he and
the Chief resist Nurse Ratched in the disturbed ward (a section of the
hospital for those patients who are considered the most insane or
dangerous). Trying to evoke an apology from McMurphy and Chief Bromden
for keeping another patient from having an enema, Nurse Ratched fails and
angrily sends the two men to have electro-shock therapy. Although
McMurphy is weakened by this, the Chief takes his first step towards
being cured by telling the other patients of McMurphy's heroics (277).
This is the first time that he has ever talked to anyone other than
McMurphy. In an obvious response to McMurphy's devotion to him, the
Chief starts to realize his true self.
      In the end, McMurphy's struggle leads to his destruction; however,
he still becomes the inmates' savior. By finding McMurphy's weakness,
which is his uncontrollable urge to always trick the other inmates out of
their money, Nurse Ratched is able to defeat him. This is evident when
McMurphy tricks the other men into not believing that the Chief could
lift the control panel. As a result of this unfair bet, McMurphy wins
money from the other men, but loses much of their faith in him (256-257).
However, McMurphy eventually regains their trust and the inmates join him
in the big party on the ward. Because the party involves breaking
hospital rules, the inmates are forced into a situation in which they
will have to defend themselves. This is McMurphy's final attempt at
leading the inmates to their freedom. As a result of all his efforts to
help them, he has become worn-out, both physically and emotionally.
Taking on the responsibility for the other patients has drained McMurphy
of all his vibrancy and individuality; however, it is almost as if his
liveliness has been transferred into the souls of the inmates. Just as
in the law of the conservation of energy (energy can neither be created
nor destroyed), McMurphy's vitality must be sapped in order to give the
other patients life. In effect, McMurphy has sacrificed his own sanity
to make the others sane.
      The final conflict between Nurse Ratched and McMurphy occurs when
McMurphy attacks her and reveals her sexuality by uncovering her large
breasts(305). McMurphy is taken away to be given a lobotomy 3/4 a
surgical operation in which a lobe of the brain, usually the frontal
lobe, is cut out for the treatment of psychoses 3/4 but Nurse Ratched no
longer has control over the other patients. By concealing her womanly
nature, she has been able to have power over the inmates. To them, Nurse
Ratched previously symbolized the cold, unfeeling, and mechanized nature
of the hospital; by revealing her womanhood, this facade is destroyed and
the men realize her weakness. Now, although she defeats McMurphy
physically, he has actually won the battle because the other patients are
able to escape. In order to ensure the Nurse's overall defeat, Chief
Bromden proceeds in the mercy killing of McMurphy. His death finalizes
the transference of his spirit into the other patients; consequently,
this allows for the complete liberation of all the inmates.
      Using the Chief as the narrator of the novel, as opposed to
McMurphy, allows the reader to examine McMurphy's actions as being
heroic, not mere braggadocio. Chief Bromden, through his behind-the-
scenes analysis of everything that occurs in the ward, is able to portray
McMurphy's saga much more subtly than if McMurphy had been the narrator.
By using the Chief's point of view, Kesey enables the reader to see a
patient (severely weakened by the hospital's control over his
individuality) eventually cured through the persistence of another
patience to make him realize his true self. Because Kesey does such an
effective job in creating the Chief's schizophrenic state early in the
story, the reader is able to see him slowly regain his sense of identity
and thus one can truly understand the significance of McMurphy's help in
changing him.
      One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest should definitely be included in a
list of works of high literary merit. It's message of fighting for
individuality and self-expression is portrayed with immense skill.
Kesey's willingness to experiment with the revolutionary style of writing
in an altered state of consciousness should be highly regarded. This
novel is a symbol of the 1960's counterculture and should be considered a
classic of its time. Not only were its issues important during its own
decade, but many are still relevant today.

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